Back To Brutal Bullet Hell
At the end of last year I reviewed the first entry in the Gundemonium series of games called Gundemonium Recollection. I gave it a fairly positive rating but noted that it's likely only going to appeal to gamers interested in such brutal challenges in the first place. GundeadliGne picks up where the first game left off and delivers familiar bullet hell combined with some interesting gameplay additions.
The setting takes us back to the familiar alternate 18th century steampuk world with an emphasis on alchemy to explain the appearance of flying girls and bullets aplenty. The basic story is similar, taking place 10 years after the events of the original game. Demonic forces continue to come from the rift where the power of alchemy stems from. In an effort to put an end to it once and for all the Rosenkreuz Foundation sets up Operation Demonic Dawn.
Sadly, it's not easy to take in the scope of the story during the game. The backstory is delivered via the instruction manual (do people still read these?) and then via intermission screens between levels. The problem is that those story bits are done via large text dumps that were hard to read and simply couldn't engage my interest. Why the game fails to use any kind of cutscenes or even simple character interaction to drive the narrative I'll never know and the game's story suffers because of it.
The visuals don't look like they've been upgraded from the first game, so you can expect a kind of 16 bit styled presentation. The intricate details on the character sprites is easy to pick up on with the used of large graphics, from the costumes to the weapons they hold. A lot of the basic enemies are lifted from the original game, including the bizarre bunnies and pumpkins, but with a selection of new cute girls filling the screen with bullets. Said attacks tend to look good too, with clearly defined bullets or things like flame attacks.
The same issues hit this game too though. It can be tricky to keep track of your hit zone in the midst of bullet hell and the game still chugs along at a fairly low resolution.
The music is pretty awesome, as various tracks work their magic in the background as you're busy blasting everything to pieces. The game does offer the option of either opting for the classic tunes used in the original release or new arranged versions of the same tracks, depending on your tastes.
So as before, you're plunged into bullet hell. Your chosen girl flies through each stage, with the screen automatically scrolling, and are tasked with shooting down enemies while dodging the barrage of bullets and other attacks flung out at you. For offensive options each character has their own set of attacks on offer. There's your basic attack, such as the dual guns used by Eryth to deadly effect or the spread laser fired by Elixirel. You can spam these endlessly and can opt for a more deadly rapid fire option which increases the rate of fire in exchange of "heating" your weapons - do it too much and your weapons overheat, leaving you unable to attack for a while. It is with the basic attacks that you see the first significant change, as GundeadliGne gives you the option to flip directions, allowing you to fire at enemies on the left side of the screen as well as to the right. This immediately changes the scope of battles where bosses can move around a lot and you'll find yourself being able to deal with threats from both sides.
From there you have the mana and bomb options. Like the basic attack, these differ depending on who you're playing as. Mana is used to unleash special moves, like Elixirel has a straightforward slow time move she can turn on and off at will, while Eryth fires a whirling attack forward that slows time only as long as the attack is hitting an enemy. Balancing these with the main attacks becomes fairly important as you play and the mana gauge prevents you from simply abusing them.
The bomb system is similar to a degree to the first game. There is a variety of "styles" in the game depending on character and chosen matrix, such as firing a huge laser or striking out in multiple directions. Where they remain similar is how they're used as last resort "get out of trouble" moves, especially as they typically transform attacks into gems as a safety measure. For players who need an easier ride there's the option of enabling auto bombing, which causes your character to automatically unleash a bomb if hit instead of losing a life, providing you have one to use. The actual way of gaining bombs has drastically changed though. Instead of having a stock of bombs and picking up the odd one along the way, you now have a bomb gauge that builds up as you play. This change makes the game more friendly to players, giving them an extra barrier to outright failure if they've got auto bombing on.
Chances are if you're not already a seasoned veteran of bullet hell games then you're going to need all the help the game's willing to give you. Even on the novice setting, GundeadliGne is quite content to fill the whole screen with threats and is quite daunting in itself. Generic enemies can pose a lot of difficulty by themselves as they come in numbers and fire off bullets in any given directions, but it's the bosses that really make you work for your victory. Typically consisting of multiple phases with different attack patterns for each one, boss attacks tend to be more intense and involve more specific patterns to cope with.
The concept of friction ties in to the game as well. For the uninitiated this is where the game rewards you for putting your hit zone dangerously close to enemy projectiles without actually hitting them. Given the large area of your sprite versus the actual tiny area of the hit zone this can be trickier than in other such shooters but it does work for those after a challenge. This has a few bonuses such as boosting your score and adding in some mana for your specials, which stack with the more typical methods like shooting down enemies and collecting gems.
As well as the standard single player campaign there are a few other game modes on offer. Mission mode throws you into specific scenarios to clear, although the difficulty appears significantly pumped up if you're still the kind of player sticking to auto bombing novice mode. A Co-op option is also available letting you tackle the challenges with another player, although at the time of writing there didn't seem to be any activity on the random partner side of things for the easier settings.
For the most part, GundeadliGne follows closely the formula set by the original game, but with a few key tweaks the game manages to show a little more spark and ends up a bit more accessible. Nevertheless, it's still a bullet hell game and should be treated as such. If dodging through storms of projectiles with little margin for error wasn't fun for you in the first game, it's likely not going to improve much this time around. If you like the idea then by all means go for it.